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Will the World End? A Huge Asteroid, Size of 3 Football Fields to Hit the Earth

A large asteroid, about the size of three-and-a-half football fields, which was expected to pass extremely close to Earth, may now hit the blue planet in 2068 due to a phenomenon called Yarkovsky effect. This effect has eventually accelerated the asteroid's flow and also changed its path.

The Yarkovsky effect describes a small but significant force that affects the orbital motion of meteoroids and asteroids smaller than 30-40 kilometers in diameter. It is caused by sunlight; when these bodies heat up in the Sun, they eventually re-radiate the energy away as heat, which in turn creates a tiny thrust.

The huge asteroid called Apophis, discovered in 2004,  is a 1,120-foot-wide (340-meter-wide) asteroid. That’s about the size of three-and-a-half football fields, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.

Astronomers, are now closely studying the asteroid, believe that the chances of an impact on Earth are very low, but it is still a possibility. As per the new calculations by astronomers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, asteroid Apophis, which will also be extremely close to Earth on April 13, 2029, is deviating from its actual orbit and may crash into Earth in 2028.

"All asteroids need to reradiate as heat the energy they absorb from sunlight in order to maintain thermal equilibrium, a process that slightly changes the orbit of the asteroid," a press release by the University of Hawaii said.

Before the discovery of Yarkovsky effect, the possibility of the collision was impossible. "The detection of this effect acting on Apophis means that the 2068 impact scenario is still a possibility," it read.

Lead author David Tholen said in a press release on October 26, "We have known for some time that an impact with Earth is not possible during the 2029 close approach."

"The new observations we obtained with the Subaru telescope earlier this year were good enough to reveal the Yarkovsky acceleration of Apophis, and they show that the asteroid is drifting away from a purely gravitational orbit by about 170 meters per year, which is enough to keep the 2068 impact scenario in play," he said.

"Basically, the heat that an asteroid radiates gives it a very tiny push... The warmer hemisphere [of the asteroid] would be pushing slightly more than the cooler hemisphere, and that causes the asteroid to drift away from what a purely gravitational orbit would predict," David Tholen was quoted as saying during a press conference.

He said that some astronomers found asteroid Apophis quite troublesome with "numerous impact scenarios" predicted and then largely ruled out since it was first discovered in 2004.

Asteroid Apophis, named after the Greek God of Chaos, is expected to harmlessly zip past Earth on April 13, 2029, which fall on Friday, the release said.

During its 2029 flyby, Apophis will first become visible to the naked eye in the night sky over the southern hemisphere and will look like a speck of light moving from east to west over Australia. It will get brighter and faster as it will zoom past Earth.

According to Nasa, during its 2029 flyby, "asteroid Apophis will first become visible to the naked eye in the night sky over the southern hemisphere". It will look like "a speck of light moving from east to west over Australia".

Apophis will then cross above the Indian Ocean, and continuing west, it will cross the equator over Africa, Nasa said.

"The Apophis close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science," said a scientist at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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